From S.F. Gate by Jill Tucker:
In the 15 years since voters essentially banned bilingual education in state schools, teaching English learners to read, write and do arithmetic first in their native language has nearly disappeared from California classrooms.

Since Proposition 227 overwhelmingly passed in June 1998, it's been all about learning English, first and foremost - but not in San Francisco. Nearly 30 percent of the city's 17,000 English learners are in bilingual education programs, compared with 5 percent on average statewide, according to the most recent data available.

And it's working, according to a recently published Stanford University study commissioned by the San Francisco Unified School District.

Districts can get around the Prop. 227 ban by having parents sign a waiver authorizing their children to be in bilingual education programs.

Bilingual education students, who learn to read and write in their native language and then transfer those academic skills into English, are - after a slower start - as fluent by sixth grade as those focused on and immersed in English with minimal support in their home language, according to the study.

Equally proficient

The same results were seen with English learners in dual-immersion programs, which teach native English speakers and non-English speakers first in Spanish, Chinese, Arabic or other languages before phasing English into their studies.

In other words, students ended up equally proficient in English no matter how they learned it in San Francisco schools, the Stanford researchers found.

The difference is that those in dual-immersion and bilingual education programs are taught in those five or six years to speak, read and write in two languages and are more likely to be bilingual.

Despite the state ban, "we haven't actually deterred from our goal of bilingualism," said Christina Wong, San Francisco Unified's special assistant to the superintendent. "We were very pleased, and it really helps justify the investment the district has made over a number of years to this effort."

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